NRL 2022: Brisbane Broncos’ cut-price spine proves Kevin Walters’ coaching credentials

Any lingering doubts about Kevin Walters’ coaching ability evaporated with the performance of the Broncos’ cut-price spine in a major boost for the club.

When Allan Langer was being inducted on stage as a Queensland sporting legend last year, friends and foes Wayne Bennett and Kevin Walters sat silently nearby at the same table.

It was secretly planned Bennett would be interviewed from his chair by Pat Welsh about Langer and finally came the call from the stage “it’s time to hear from the super coach.’’

Seizing the chance for the comic intervention which was his trademark as a player 30 years before, Walters rose from his chair and quipped “always happy to talk about Alf … what would you like to know?’’

Boom. Boom. The crowd laughed because everyone got the gag.

Stream every game of every round of the 2022 NRL Telstra Premiership Season Live & Ad-Break Free During Play on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-days free now >

Coach Kevin Walters should be smiling after the Broncos’ valiant effort against the Storm. Picture: Liam Kidston
Coach Kevin Walters should be smiling after the Broncos’ valiant effort against the Storm. Picture: Liam Kidston

There’s only one super coach in Brisbane and it certainly wasn’t the man who was battling his backside off after his Broncos team finished third last.

And while there’s still only one super coach in Brisbane, Walters has done well this year to upgrade his reputation by somehow disproving one of the most fundamental beliefs in rugby league — that if you haven’t got a proven spine you’ll never really shine.

Brisbane won seven matches in a row before a dignified loss to the Melbourne Storm which, all things considered, was as impressive as some of their wins.

The day before Brisbane started their seven-match streak Walters quipped that his “magic wand hadn’t worked’’ and the rebuild may take longer than expected.

Then, suddenly, things clicked. Defying the theory that the spine is everything in rugby league was the spoonful of magic he was craving.

Ezra Mam has impressed at five-eighth. Picture: Kelly Defina/Getty Images
Ezra Mam has impressed at five-eighth. Picture: Kelly Defina/Getty Images

The total cost for Brisbane’s spine (fullback Te Maire Martin, halfback Tyrone Roberts, five-eighth Ezra Mam and hooker Billy Walters) against Melbourne would have been less than $500,000 for the season, half of what Kalyn Ponga gets himself, about one sixth of what Penrith spend and less than any other side in the competition outlays for the four positions.

Brisbane have proved if you get a side fit enough, their alertness increases, they make better decisions, they panic less, don’t snatch at the game and their collective drive can cover a lack of stars in key positions.

Of course Adam Reynolds has switched on a light for Brisbane but they have also played well without him. It’s not a case of Reynolds or bust.

This season’s efforts have — more than anything else — proved that poor fitness let Brisbane down in recent winters.

This time last year the Broncos had conceded a whopping 482 points compared to just 255 this season.

Te Maire Martin has been an inspired signing. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Te Maire Martin has been an inspired signing. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

The final verdict of Walters will come at the end of the season but on current evidence the drum beating Broncos old boys may have had a fair point — give Walters a solid team and a bit of time and the side will eventually start playing for him and become a happy unit which, as we all know, is a significant part of the battle for any coach.

The old boys always sensed Walters missed first grade coaching jobs because he is not a super salesman of his own talent and that his natural strength is in the dressing room delivering simple, uncomplicated messages or sitting in the coach’s box where is conspicuously cool and concentrated.

It’s not the board room showing overhead transparencies trying to sell himself with some grand vision that impresses boards but totally confuses players.

“I’m from Ipswich mate — we don’t have smoke and mirrors up there,’’ he once said.

Originally published as NRL 2022: Brisbane Broncos’ cut-price spine proves Kevin Walters’ coaching credentials

Add your comment to this story

To join the conversation, please Don't have an account? Register

Join the conversation, you are commenting as Logout